It is alienating to live smoothly for two months in Taiwan and be told in a joking manner by people living in Europe whom you hear on the phone or Zoom/Skype/Meetings things like “ah, haven’t the Chinese landed yet?”. After making the joke they usually get serious and ask things like “what is the situation like? how do people cope?”. The reality is that people in Taiwan do not think about the Chinese invasion. The island nation does not live in fear, watching the horizon to see if invaders are coming. This is not to say that Taiwanese do not think about the future, even with fear, but the reality of everyday life is that China is not there. Even when the bully regime sends its jets over Taiwanese waters, people shrug their shoulders and take an interest in other news, such as people changing their names to get free sushi.
It is alienating to see how the perspective of those who do not live in Taiwan is so different from those who do. It is alarming. As a temporary resident, I wonder how I would behave if I were a permanent resident. Would I be afraid of a Chinese invasion? Would I be afraid that my world, my freedoms, my way of life might all at once disappear? I don’t know. My experience is based on living in Western Europe, I can’t put myself 100% in the head of someone who was born and raised here. Taiwan has been called the most dangerous place on Earth, which is frankly ridiculous because living here you don’t feel in danger at all. Rather, Taiwan is the prey that the bully neighbour would like and it could start a world war. So Taiwan suffers the dangerousness of its bully neighbour, it is not the advocate of dangerousness. Victim blaming, one might say.
What I do know is that for the medium/long term I am actually afraid for Taiwan’s future. The generations over 40 still have the scholastic/cultural imprinting of the KMT dictatorship, for the younger generation the matter is very simple: Taiwan is a free nation, China is another nation, which is a dictatorship. Unfortunately, the CCP in China is not a rational agent. Especially now with a single man in charge who will remain in charge for a long time. Taiwanese are right to live their lives without daily paranoia, Europeans/ Americans/etc etc are wrong to think that the Chinese invasion is a matter of days but we still all have to deal with the medium/long term of a totalitarian regime that pretends that the will of almost 24 million people is worth nothing. We have learnt from history that bullies understand only one language, that of violence. If liberal democracies made it clear that a Chinese invasion of Taiwan would not be tolerated, perhaps the bully would be a little quieter.